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The bestselling author of Leonarvị domain authority Vinci & Steve Jobs returns with a gripping tài khoản of how Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues launched a revolution that will allow us to lớn cure diseases, fkết thúc off viruses, và have sầu healthier babies.When Jennifer Doudmãng cầu was in sixth grade, she came trang chủ one day to find that her dad had left a paperbaông chồng titled The Double Helix on her bed. She put it aside, thinking it was one of those detective sầu tales she loved. When she read it on a rainy Saturday, she discovered she was right, in a way. As she sped through the pages, she became enthralled by the intense drama behind the competition lớn discover the code of life. Even though her high school counselor told her girls didn’t become scientists, she decided she would. Driven by a passion to lớn underst& how nature works and to turn discoveries inkhổng lồ inventions, she would help lớn make what the book’s author, James Watson, told her was the most important biological advance since his co-discovery of the structure of DNA. She & her collaborators turned a curiosity ​of nature into lớn an invention that will transform the human race: an easy-to-use tool that can edit DNA. Known as CRISquảng cáo, it opened a brave sầu new world of medical miracles and moral questions. The development of CRISquảng bá & the race to lớn create vaccines for coronavirus will hasten our transition lớn the next great innovation revolution. The past half-century has been a digital age, based on the microchip, computer, và internet. Now we are entering a life-science revolution. Children who study digital coding will be joined by those who study genetic code. Should we use our new evolution-hacking powers to lớn make us less susceptible to lớn viruses? What a wonderful boon that would be! And what about preventing depression? Hmmm...Should we allow parents, if they can afford it, to lớn enhance the height or muscles or IQ of their kids? After helping khổng lồ discover CRISlăng xê, Doudna became a leader in wrestling with these moral issues and, with her collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier, won the Nobel Prize in 2020. Her story is a thrilling detective sầu tale that involves the most profound wonders of nature, from the origins of life khổng lồ the future of our species.


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Walter Isaacson, a professor of history at Tulane, has been CEO of the Aspen Institute, chair of CNN, & editor of Time. He is the author of Leonarvị domain authority Vinci; The Innovators; Steve Jobs; Einstein: His Life and Universe; Benjamin Franklin: An American Life; and Kissinger: A Biography, và the coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends và the World They Made. Visit hyên at Isaacson.Tulane.edu.


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Education:

Harvard, B.A. in History và Literature, 1974; Oxford (Rhodes Scholar), M.A. in Philosophy, Politics, và Economics

Read an Excerpt

Introduction Inkhổng lồ the Breach   Jennifer Doudmãng cầu couldn’t sleep. Berkeley, the university where she was a superstar for her role in inventing the gene-editing giải pháp công nghệ known as CRIStruyền bá, had just shut down its campus because of the fast-spreading coronavirus pandemic. Against her better judgment, she had driven her son, Andy, a high school senior, to lớn the train station so he could go to Fresno for a robot-building competition. Now, at 2 a.m., she roused her husb& và insisted that they retrieve hlặng before the start of the match, when more than twelve hundred kids would be gathering in an indoor convention center. They pulled on their clothes, got in the oto, found an open gas station, và made the three-hour drive. Andy, an only child, was not happy to lớn see them, but they convinced hyên ổn khổng lồ paông chồng up và come home. As they pulled out of the parking lot, Andy got a text from the team: “Robotics match cancelled! All kids lớn leave immediately!”   This was the moment, Doudna recalls, that she realized her world, and the world of science, had changed. The government was fumbling its response lớn COVID, so it was time for professors và graduate students, clutching their kiểm tra tubes và raising their pipettes high, khổng lồ rush into the breach. The next day—Friday, March 13, 2020—she led a meeting of her Berkeley colleagues và other scientists in the Bay Area khổng lồ discuss what roles they might play.   A dozen of them made their way across the abandoned Berkeley campus & converged on the sleek stone-and-glass building that housed her lab. The chairs in the ground-floor conference room were clustered together, so the first thing they did was move sầu them six feet apart. Then they turned on a đoạn Clip system so that fifty other researchers from nearby universities could join by Zoom. As she stood in front of the room to rally them, Doudna displayed an intensity that she usually kept masked by a calm façade. “This is not something that academics typically vày,” she told them. “We need khổng lồ step up.”2     It was fitting that a virus-fighting team would be led by a CRISquảng cáo pioneer. The gene-editing tool that Doudmãng cầu và others developed in 2012 is based on a virus-fighting trick used by bacteria, which have sầu been battling viruses for more than a billion years. In their DNA, bacteria develop clustered repeated sequences, known as CRISPRs, that can rethành viên and then destroy viruses that attack them. In other words, it’s an immune system that can adapt itself to lớn fight each new wave sầu of viruses—just what we humans need in an era that has been plagued, as if we were still in the Middle Ages, by repeated viral epidemics.   Always prepared and methodical, Doudna (pronounced DOWDnuh) presented slides that suggested ways they might take on the coronavirus. She led by listening. Although she had become a science celebrity, people felt comfortable engaging with her. She had mastered the art of being tightly scheduled while still finding the time to connect with people emotionally.   The first team that Doudmãng cầu assembled was given the job of creating a coronavi khuẩn testing lab. One of the leaders she tapped was a postdoc named Jennifer Hamilton who, a few months earlier, had spent a day teaching me to use CRISPR to edit human genes. I was pleased, but also a bit unnerved, to lớn see how easy it was. Even I could bởi it!   Another team was given the mission of developing new types of coronavirus tests based on CRISlăng xê. It helped that Doudmãng cầu liked commercial enterprises. Three years earlier, she and two of her graduate students had started a company khổng lồ use CRISquảng bá as a tool for detecting viral diseases.   In launching an effort to find new tests to lớn detect the coronavi khuẩn, Doudna was opening another front in her fierce but fruitful struggle with a cross-country competitor. Feng Zhang, a charming young China-born and Iowa-raised researcher at the Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard, had been her rival in the 2012 race khổng lồ turn CRIStruyền bá into a gene-editing tool, and ever since then they had been locked in an intense competition to lớn make scientific discoveries và form CRISPRbased companies. Now, with the outbreak of the pandemic, they would engage in another race, this one spurred not by the pursuit of patents but by a desire lớn vì chưng good.   Doudna settled on ten projects. She suggested leaders for each and told the others lớn sort themselves into lớn the teams. They should pair up with someone who would persize the same functions, so that there could be a battlefield promotion system: if any of them were struông chồng by the vi khuẩn, there would be someone to lớn step in & continue their work. It was the last time they would meet in person. From then on the teams would collaborate by Zoom & Slaông chồng.   “I’d lượt thích everyone to get started soon,” she said. “Really soon.”   “Don’t worry,” one of the participants assured her. “Nobody’s got any travel plans.”     What none of the participants discussed was a longer-range prospect: using CRISquảng bá lớn engineer inheritable edits in humans that would make our children, & all of our descendants, less vulnerable lớn virus infections. These genetic improvements could permanently alter the human race.   “That’s in the realm of science fiction,” Doudna said dismissively when I raised the topic after the meeting. Yes, I agreed, it’s a bit like Brave New World or Gattaca. But as with any good science fiction, elements have sầu already come true. In November 2018, a young Chinese scientist who had been to lớn some of Doudna’s gene-editing conferences used CRISquảng cáo to edit embryos & remove sầu a ren that produces a receptor for HIV, the vi khuẩn that causes AIDS. It led to the birth of twin girls, the world’s first “designer babies.”   There was an immediate outburst of awe and then shochồng. Arms flailed, committees convened. After more than three billion years of evolution of life on this planet, one species (us) had developed the talent and temerity to lớn grab control of its own genetic future. There was a sense that we had crossed the threshold inlớn a whole new age, perhaps a brave new world, lượt thích when Adam and Eve sầu bit inkhổng lồ the hãng apple or Prometheus snatched fire from the gods.   Our newfound ability to lớn make edits khổng lồ our genes raises some fascinating questions. Should we edit our species to make us less susceptible to lớn deadly viruses? What a wonderful boon that would be! Right? Should we use ren editing lớn eliminate dreaded disorders, such as Huntington’s, sickle-cell anemia, and cystic fibrosis? That sounds good, too. And what about deafness or blindness? Or being short? Or depressed? Hmmilimet . . . How should we think about that? A few decades from now, if it becomes possible & safe, should we allow parents lớn enhance the IQ and muscles of their kids? Should we let them decide eye color? Skin color? Height?   Whoa! Let’s pause for a moment before we slide all of the way down this slippery slope. What might that vì chưng khổng lồ the diversity of our societies? If we are no longer subject khổng lồ a random natural lottery when it comes lớn our endowments, will it weaken our feelings of empathy và acceptance? If these offerings at the genetic supermarket aren’t free (và they won’t be), will that greatly increase inequality—and indeed encode it permanently in the human race? Given these issues, should such decisions be left solely lớn individuals, or should society as a whole have sầu some say? Perhaps we should develop some rules.   By “we” I mean we. All of us, including you & me. Figuring out if và when to lớn edit our genes will be one of the most consequential questions of the twenty-first century, so I thought it would be useful to lớn understand how it’s done. Likewise, recurring waves of vi khuẩn epidemics make it important to understvà the life sciences. There’s a joy that springs from fathoming how something works, especially when that something is ourselves. Doudna relished that joy, & so can we. That’s what this book is about.     The invention of CRISquảng cáo và the plague of COVID will hasten our transition khổng lồ the third great revolution of modern times. These revolutions arose from the discovery, beginning just over a century ago, of the three fundamental kernels of our existence: the atom, the bit, và the gene.   The first half of the twentieth century, beginning with Albert Einstein’s 1905 papers on relativity và quantum theory, featured a revolution driven by physics. In the five decades following his miracle year, his theories led khổng lồ atom bombs và nuclear power, transistors & spaceships, lasers và radar.   The second half of the twentieth century was an information-technology era, based on the idea that all information could be encoded by binary digits—known as bits—& all logical processes could be performed by circuits with on-off switches. In the 1950s, this led khổng lồ the development of the microchip, the computer, and the mạng internet. When these three innovations were combined, the digital revolution was born.   Now we have sầu entered a third và even more momentous era, a life-science revolution. Children who study digital coding will be joined by those who study genetic code.   When Doudna was a graduate student in the 1990s, other biologists were racing to maps the genes that are coded by our DNA. But she became more interested in DNA’s less-celebrated sibling, RNA. It’s the molecule that actually does the work in a cell by copying some of the instructions coded by the DNA và using them to build proteins. Her quest khổng lồ underst& RNA led her lớn that most fundamental question: How did life begin? She studied RNA molecules that could replicate themselves, which raised the possibility that in the stew of chemicals on this planet four billion years ago they started khổng lồ reproduce even before DNA came inlớn being.   As a biochemist at Berkeley studying the molecules of life, she focused on figuring out their structure. If you’re a detective sầu, the most basic clues in a biological whodunit come from discovering how a molecule’s twists & folds determine the way it interacts with other molecules. In Doudna’s case, that meant studying the structure of RNA. It was an eđến of the work Rosalind Franklin had done with DNA, which was used by James Watson và Francis Criông xã khổng lồ discover the double-helix structure of DNA in 1953. As it happens, Watson, a complex figure, would weave sầu in & out of Doudna’s life.   Doudna’s expertise in RNA led to a Điện thoại tư vấn from a biologist at Berkeley who was studying the CRIStruyền bá system that bacteria developed in their battle against viruses. Like a lot of basic science discoveries, it turned out to lớn have sầu practical applications. Some were rather ordinary, such as protecting the bacteria in yogurt cultures. But in 2012 Doudna & others figured out a more earth-shattering use: how to turn CRIStruyền bá into a tool khổng lồ edit genes.   CRIStruyền bá is now being used to lớn treat sickle-cell anemia, cancers, & blindness. And in 2020, Doudmãng cầu và her teams began exploring how CRISquảng cáo could detect & destroy the coronavi khuẩn. “CRISquảng bá evolved in bacteria because of their long-running war against viruses,” Doudmãng cầu says. “We humans don’t have time khổng lồ wait for our own cells to lớn evolve natural resistance to lớn this virus, so we have to use our ingenuity to do that. Isn’t it fitting that one of the tools is this ancient bacterial immune system called CRISPR? Nature is beautiful that way.” Ah, yes. Rethành viên that phrase: Nature is beautiful. That’s another theme of this book.     There are other star players in the field of gene editing. Most of them deserve to be the focus of biographies or perhaps even movies. (The elevator pitch: A Beautiful Mind meets Jurassic Park.) They play important roles in this book, because I want lớn show that science is a team sport. But I also want khổng lồ show the impact that a persistent, sharply inquisitive, stubborn, và edgily competitive player can have. With a smile that sometimes (but not always) masks the wariness in her eyes, Jennifer Doudmãng cầu turned out to be a great central character. She has the instincts lớn be collaborative sầu, as any scientist must, but ingrained in her character is a competitive streak, which most great innovators have sầu. With her emotions usually carefully controlled, she wears her star status lightly.   Her life story—as a researcher, Nobel Prize winner, và public policy thinker—connects the CRISquảng bá tale khổng lồ some larger historical threads, including the role of women in science. Her work also illustrates, as Leonarvày domain authority Vinci’s did, that the key lớn innovation is connecting a curiosity about basic science to the practical work of devising tools that can be applied lớn our lives—moving discoveries from lab bench to lớn bedside.   By telling her story, I hope to lớn give sầu an up-cthảm bại look at how science works. What actually happens in a lab? To what extent vì chưng discoveries depkết thúc on individual genius, & to what extent has teamwork become more critical? Has the competition for prizes and patents undermined collaboration?   Most of all, I want khổng lồ convey the importance of basic science, meaning quests that are curiosity-driven rather than application-oriented. Curiosity-driven research into the wonders of nature plants the seeds, sometimes in unpredictable ways, for later innovations.3 Research about surface-state physics eventually led khổng lồ the transistor & microchip. Likewise, studies of an astonishing method that bacteria use khổng lồ fight off viruses eventually led to lớn a gene-editing tool & techniques that humans can use in their own struggle against viruses.   It is a story filled with the biggest of questions, from the origins of life to lớn the future of the human race. And it begins with a sixth-grade girl who loved searching for “sleeping grass” and other fascinating phenomemãng cầu amid the lava rocks of Hawaii, coming trang chính from school one day and finding on her bed a detective sầu tale about the people who discovered what they proclaimed to lớn be, with only a little exaggeration, “the secret of life.”  


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